Self-Sufficiency on a Low-Cost Homestead

Achieve self sufficiency on a one acre homestead at a low cost.

| November/December 1983

The One Arce Homestead

Providing food, shelter, and energy for four people from such a small piece of ground is a tall order. However, self-sufficiency is a goal worth pursuing.

Photo by Fotolia/Vodoleg
Is it possible to achieve independence on one acre? Well, with imagination, hard work, and the right one acre, we think it can be done . . . and that's what this project is all about. Of course, providing food, shelter, and energy for four people from such a small piece of ground is a tall order, and we have no illusions that we're likely to be able to achieve it quickly or without stumbling a few times. Still, we think self-sufficiency is a goal worth pursuing, and we hope that in this and future issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS we'll be able to help some of you in your struggles to achieve independence . . . by doing some of the experimenting for you.

SHELTER: The core of the low-cost homestead is the 1,000-square-foot, two bedroom earth shelter described in the accompanying article. Instead of conventional rectilinear construction, we've chosen a more structurally sound round design . . . which allowed us to use 8" concrete block, rather than more expensive 12" block or a poured wall. In addition, the circular plan yields significantly more useful floor space than would a square building that used a similar amount of material. For example, the exterior walls alone have 11 percent less surface area than would a square building of equal floor space.

A greenhouse with built-in planting beds extends south from the living room, and will provide both fresh greenery and a solar heating boost for the dwelling. During summer, however, an overhang shades the greenhouse, kitchen, and clerestory windows from direct sunlight through the hottest part of the day.

Naturally, we chose to insulate the building to the extent that our project's finances would allow. And you might be surprised to find out that, even on less than $10 per square foot, we managed to afford a ceiling value of about R-26 and wall R-values anywhere from 13 (on the most heavily bermed portions) to as much as 41. (We left the slab uninsulated . . . though folks in more extreme climates might want to alter
that detail.)

Backup heating will be provided by a Vermont Castings Vigilant woodstove located almost in the center of the building, and that unit's capabilities will be enhanced to some extent by a mass wall of
high-manganese brick built behind the woodburner.

The home's domestic water will be solar heated — by a batch device set at the face of planting beds located outside the kitchen windows — and H20 consumption will be kept to a minimum with low-flow faucets and a Seiche One toilet that uses less than a gallon per flush.

Finally, the earth-sheltered design should keep maintenance on the building to a minimum . . . allowing most of the occupants' energies to be devoted to work on the sustainable agriculture systems.

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